Customers don’t want humans to bother them

Gene Marks
Tribune Interactive

Get out of our way. That’s the message customers have for merchants looking to improve their in-store experience, according to a new study of more than 2,900 adults and children in the U.S. and Canada. The survey, conducted winter by HRC Retail Advisory, found that a majority of buyers prefer to be left alone to browse while shopping and would rather get more of their information independently rather than from a human store associate.

Eighty-five percent of those surveyed preferred checking prices on a scanner instead of asking a store employee, and 76 percent reported that having an in-store app to get information about products is important.

The type of retail store, however, affected these results. For example, customers looking for electronics were more apt to want to test products and get assistance from a salesperson as opposed to customers searching for clothes or apparel.

“It’s not that they don’t want any service at all, but what consumers increasingly want is to be able to control the service they are looking for,” Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, told Reuters. In-store technologies such as mobile check-out or coupons and promotions delivered to customer’s mobiles are growing in popularity as is the option to reserve an item in advance to pick up later.

So, does this mean a merchant should be ridding themselves of employees and replacing them with tech? Not at all. The key seems to be finding the right balance of technology and human assistance that ultimately provides the customer with the answers they need as quickly as possible.


Gene Marks is an author and a certified public accountant, and writes regularly for The Washington Post, Forbes Inc., and Entrepreneur.